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How To Survive Squid Game – 7 Clever Marketing Strategies To Learn From the Show

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This Netflix series has taken the world by storm, and it is not only Netflix viewers who are infatuated with this series. It is fast becoming a marketing juggernaut.

Let’s assume we’re the VIPs inside the squid games. Consuming the performance of life and death as a spectacle. What do we bet on? Let’s figure out the strategy and intentions that went to work.

The immense popularity of this non-English language dystopian show has taught us one thing – you can never play by the rulebook or rely on one strategy alone, there are no certain rules. This Netflix series has taken the world by storm, and it is not only Netflix viewers who are infatuated with this series.

It is fast becoming a marketing juggernaut. Since its September 17 premiere, the show’s magenta guard costumes, minimalist business cards, and life-or-death Dalgona game have become ingrained in pop culture.

Following the popularity of Squid Game, companies rushed to incorporate the show into ad campaigns, weaving brand logos into Dalgona treats and the game’s symbols, brands hopped on the bandwagon of show’s success to get free exposure, by making their brands the part of a conversation that is so pervasive that the algorithms can’t suppress it. With no promotion whatsoever in other countries and the US, this show still topped the chart in 23 countries and it all happened due to various factors combined, which we will be discovered below.

1. The Game of STORYTELLING

‘Know your audience’ is the first rule of marketing, and it has proven to be a key reason for the incredible success of Squid Game. The show has all the ingredients of a successful recipe. A high-quality show, an unbeatable story that appeals to a wide audience. A unique eye-catching premise with a deep focus on character development. Suppose you’ve just signed up and have no idea what’s coming next. It leaves us pondering what strategies even we, the audience, the consumers can come up with. It gives us space to think about what we want and then gives us what we want the very next second. It touches on a lot of topical themes such as social and economic inequality. High watch time and good engagement become the foundation for any show to take off.

This goes to prove that we can’t always follow conventional norms and depend on historic data to tell us what’s next – innovative businesses should always consider taking calculated risks with their marketing strategy. Squid Game redefined the boundaries of a TV show, revolutionized the way we view and interact with content. Regular content can give your business mediocre attention, but a strong concept that is intriguing and fresh can make you go viral, resulting in a lot of free marketing.

2. The Game of Relatability BASIC HUMAN EMOTIONS

This show is gripping. Right from the start, we’re invited to lurk in the misery of the desperate, poor people, as they’re asked to compete in a children’s themed game that is given a deathly twist. Even if you’re not familiar with the culture you simply cannot ignore the dark universal themes of suffering, need, desire, pain, and desperation. The easy-to-understand rules in the visually enriched universe of Squid Game and the flickering friendship move us as we start rooting for the characters and start wanting more, right along with them. The series catches the viewers on a basic human emotional level so that everyone can relate to the characters’ dilemmas and build a connection with them. And when that’s the case, cultural discrepancies don’t matter. So, brands are not selling products, they are selling emotions you relate with the product, and human emotions are generic, unaffected by ethnic backgrounds.

3. THE GATEKEEPERS

For any show, there are some early audiences, who have been rooting for it. In this case, it was Korean drama and K-pop fans, along with fans of dark thrillers, etc.; the people who’ve already been swept by the Hallyu wave. They become the show’s initial cheerleaders, the gatekeepers. They got the ball rolling as the show’s popularity snowballed then hit number 1. Netflix’s extremely powerful platform with more than 209 million users acted as a catalyst by giving it homepage placement and visibility.

4. The Game of Conformity: WORD OF MOUTH

A movie series accompanied by trends and memes results in one thing for certain: you’re almost forced to watch it so that you can relate to the community around you, understand the sub-cultural jokes being told, and enjoy the memes being created and shared.

WOM is very hard to predict or synthetically create for marketers, as a combination of luck and perfect timing needs to come along with it. Word of mouth is a classic marketing strategy, a minimal, organic yet powerful factor, it has stayed with us from the beginning. Squid Game proved it can be a major marketing strategy in advertising. Social media is now so accessible to brands and businesses that it can trigger a wave of buzz to get things going.

Suppose you aren’t interested in the show at all. You hear how good the series was from your friend. You register the name. There are a lot of people discussing it as well. Now it’s not something you can ignore. Suddenly social media is flooded with memes and trends based on the show and you feel left out, at the same time it provokes your curiosity. A movie series accompanied by trends and memes results in one thing for certain: you’re almost forced to watch it so that you can relate to the community around you, understand the sub-cultural jokes being told, and enjoy the memes being created and shared. The violence and the gore of the show in a colorful setting get the buzz going and give us the pleasure of being the conversation starter.

5. DESIGN MATTERS

Familiarity is a powerful way to appeal to audiences. It creates a sense of comfort and belonging, which are key to building trust and boosting affinity.

One of the impressive aspects of the series is its visual design, which pops out and sticks with you as an indelible part of the show’s character and identity. The show creators incorporated many elements that reference familiar art, like the Escherian stairwell and the red suits from Money Heist. This is important to note because familiarity is a powerful way to appeal to audiences. It creates a sense of comfort and belonging, which are key to building trust and boosting affinity. The series uses colors smartly, as if from a set palette. The backgrounds are pastels, which effectively counteract with the vivid red of the staff uniforms and the players’ green. The colors reinforce the underlying sense of the story – innocent childlike settings in light pastel tones, nasty devil colors for the staff, and the hope and renewal of green for the players whose lives we are rooting for! Marketers know that color drives different emotions and the use of different colors can have a huge impact on a campaign. Squid Game just makes it all the more clear.

When it comes to creating brand logos, simplicity is essential. It provides the viewer with a somewhat blank slate on which to project their feelings and perceptions, which is a large part of building a relationship with a brand.

Another element of design that deserves a mention is the simple, clean symbols representing the games and those on the masks of the guards. When it comes to creating brand logos, simplicity is essential. It provides the viewer with a somewhat blank slate on which to project their feelings and perceptions, which is a large part of building a relationship with a brand. Plus, it’s a good lesson to remind marketers to simplify their message, making it easier for customers to assimilate.

6. The Game of MEMES – Viral Fever of Trends

TikTok not only reinvented the way brands reach their audiences, but it also set a new standard for how companies should approach their consumers.

Going viral is not necessarily something you can plan for or predict. But the Squid Game references have jumped from community to community. For example, a Squid Game meme can be contextualized into a finance meme or a tech meme which allows to spread it to new audiences who might not have heard of it otherwise from their direct social circles. Even if you have no interest in it, the sheer volume of discussion and buzz will bring you into its vicinity and drive you to probably check it out. Even Netflix may have been taken by surprise with the viral success of Squid Game. As one senior strategy analyst in the streaming industry put it, “I’m assuming that the [Netflix] executives knew because of the talent they used, because of the region they released it in, that this was going to be a hit in South Korea. I would put good money that the executives had no idea this was going to be a global hit.”

Make your campaign so unique and specific that you turn your audiences into advocates for the story.

Squid Game has proven to be the quintessential example of contemporary ‘virality’. The iconic scenes and props continue to have a ripple effect on pop culture. It’s now a familiar reference and mainstay in popular culture. Since the show’s release, there has been a tsunami of TikTokers posting videos of themselves playing the games. And new challenges around it are being formed and catered to. Memes are erupting and proliferating in new ways every day. Mentions of Squid Game have exploded on social media networks and feeds such as Google Discover. Check out the steady and continual increase in YouTube views of the show’s trailer: TikTok not only reinvented the way brands reach their audiences, but it also set a new standard for how companies should approach their consumers.

Squid Game is almost forming an army of viewers that advocate and share the inside jokes. The great advantage for Squid Game is that the only way to understand the jokes going viral is to watch the show because of how specific they are. This is great for a marketing strategy. Make your campaign so unique and specific that you turn your audiences into advocates for the story.

7. The Game of Inspiring – MOMENT MARKETING

With all things that go viral, it’s always hard to point out exactly what makes things tick and grow. But we do know that Squid Game’s success story is an uncommon one and, deservingly, demands our attention.

Unlike mainstream TV, Netflix doesn’t offer brands the opportunity to run commercials, so marketers must look elsewhere and get creative to tap into the show’s hit status. Brands and independent creators alike have been having fun with Squid Game memes that utilize some of the show’s most iconic scenes. Today, it’s acceptable for a large brand to comment on a post without having to be professional; in fact, serious brands that take an informal approach on the platform get a lot more praise and attention, resulting in higher free impressions. The dating app Tinder, for example, gets a ton of impressions by simply commenting funny phrases on any content related to relationships.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in marketing, if you’re ‘copied’, then you know you’ve succeeded. The success of Squid Game has spawned a host of marketing campaigns, inspired by the popularity of the series (this blog post included!). Brands rushed to engage their target audiences with social media posts, ads, and images that draw on themes and visuals from the show. The key element here is timing: brands had to move fast to join the Squid Game bandwagon while it was at its peak. Luckily, the show’s symbols and visuals are so distinctive and simple, many brands could easily put together a quick-win campaign at low cost, designed to attract instant attention from audiences with notoriously low attention spans. Some brands decided to go heavier than just social media posts. RHB, the fourth largest financial services group in Malaysia, even issued a limited-edition visa card featuring the Squid Game design.

With all things that go viral, it’s always hard to point out exactly what makes things tick and grow. But we do know that Squid Game’s success story is an uncommon one and, deservingly, demands our attention.

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